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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

Olympia Car Accidents/Personal Injury/Criminal Defense Blog

Randy Travis loses legal bid to stop release of DUI video

Washington music fans may be interested to learn that Randy Travis of the Country Music Hall of Fame has lost his legal bid to stop the release of a video of his 2012 drunk driving arrest. The footage reportedly shows the country singer naked and threatening police.

On Nov. 30, a federal judge denied Travis' request for a preliminary injunction against the release of the video, freeing the Texas Department of Public Safety to release it. Various parties had sought access to the footage through open records requests. Travis and his family have been fighting to stop the release of the video, which they say is private and embarrassing, for several years. The singer fought a previous case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, but he lost. His wife also petitioned a federal court to sue on his behalf, but she was denied. Travis had a stroke in 2013, and his attorney claims that he cannot speak well and is in no condition to discuss or defend his actions.

Drunk driving arrests up by 10 percent

Many people in Washington state are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs each year, and some of them cause accidents in which others are seriously injured or killed. According to the Washington State Patrol, DUI arrests have increased in King County, showing that drunk driving continues to be a prevalent issue.

The Washington State Patrol reports that troopers arrested 2,425 drunk drivers from the beginning of 2017 through Thanksgiving. In 2016, troopers arrested 2,201 drivers for alleged DUI offenses during the entire year. This means that there has been a 10 percent increase in 2017 over the number of people who were arrested in all of 2016.

Report finds that black offenders often get harsher sentencing

Civil rights groups in Washington and around the country have long alleged that African Americans receive disproportionately harsh treatment in the criminal justice system. A report released by the U.S. Sentencing Commission on Nov. 14 suggests that these claims have merit. The independent agency, which is part of the judicial branch of the federal government, studied the sentences handed down to black and white men convicted of the same crimes between 2012 and 2016. They found that African American males received sentences that were, on average, 19.1 percent longer.

The Demographic Differences in Sentencing study reveals the impact of the landmark 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Booker. The Booker ruling allows federal judges to impose sentences harsher than those prescribed by USSC sentencing guidelines based on admissions made by defendants or facts proved beyond reasonable doubt in court. However, the ruling also allows federal appeals courts to review and modify sentences.

Rap star faces DUI following drag-racing incident

A popular rap star is facing DUI and other charges following a traffic incident on Nov. 3. Authorities say that Willie Maxwell, who is perhaps best known by music enthusiasts in Washington as Fetty Wap, was allegedly drag racing another vehicle at approximately 1 a.m. when he was pulled over by New York City police. Information regarding the second vehicle has not been released.

Following the incident, a New York Police Department spokesman told reporters that a Breathalyzer test was administered to Maxwell on the scene. Results showed that the musician's blood alcohol content was .09 percent when the traffic stop was conducted. The legal limit for operating a motor vehicle in New York State is .08 percent.

Actor Christopher McDonald facing second drunk driving charge

Washington residents may know Christopher McDonald from his performances in films such as "Thelma and Louise" and "Happy Gilmore", but it is not the 62-year-old character actor's thespian talents that media outlets have been discussing. McDonald was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol in 2013 while visiting North Carolina, and media outlets are reporting that he is now facing a second DUI charge after crashing his car in California on Oct. 28.

According to a California Highway Patrol report, McDonald lost control of his Porsche Boxster as he attempted to navigate a curve on State Route 189 in Lake Arrowhead at approximately 8:45 p.m. Officers say that McDonald's car mounted a curb, struck a tree and hit a gas line at a nearby supermarket before coming to a rest. The actor has been charged under California's drunk driving laws, but initial reports do not indicate what his alleged blood alcohol level was at the time or how it had been determined.

Race and poverty influence plea deals offered to defendants

When a defendant agrees to a plea bargain in Washington, the decision is final and it will mean a criminal conviction of some sort. Prosecutors determine the terms of plea deals, and people who lack the means to pay for bail typically accept them because they'll generally get to go home if the charges are misdemeanors.

When someone can pay the bail, the pressure to accept a plea deal goes down. A defendant with financial resources can obtain release from jail and potentially ask an attorney to review the case. Legal representation might result in a better plea deal than what a prosecutor initially offers.

Tiger Woods to enter diversion program for impaired drivers

Washington residents may recall the media furor that ensued when Tiger Woods was charged with driving under the influence in May. Toxicology reports reveal that the former world number one was under the influence of prescription medications along with marijuana when he was discovered unconscious behind the wheel of his car, but he was scheduled to enter a guilty plea to a reduced charge of reckless driving at a Palm Beach County hearing on Oct. 25.

The plea agreement allows Woods to avoid a DUI conviction by entering into a diversion program for impaired drivers that has received the widespread support of state prosecutors. Similar programs are offered in states including Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and some have claimed recidivism rates lower than 1 percent. Research has found that drunk drivers often reoffend, and organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving have advocated for mandatory ignition interlock device laws to combat the problem. These devices have been found to lower recidivism rates by up to 65 percent.

Woman charged in hit-and-run

According to law enforcement officials, a woman from Pierce County in Washington has been charged with multiple counts related to drunk driving after colliding with three other vehicles. The 55-year-old woman has had previous DUI incidences.

Her charges include a hit-and-run accident with injury to another and assault in the third degree. She was also charged with driving with a suspended license in the third degree and the operation of a vehicle with no interlock device.

Safeguarding against distracted motorists

You may already know the dangers of driving while distracted. Many Olympia area motorists do, too. However, some of them are not using this knowledge to change their driving behaviors. They still operate their vehicles while performing other activities that make it challenging for them to stay focused on the roads.

Driving distractions can be just as deadly as drunk driving. Less awareness of a person's surroundings means an increase in driving errors. More driving errors lead to an increase in the number of injuries and fatalities that happen on the road every day.

State Supreme Court rules random testing unconstitutional

On Oct. 5, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional to require those who were accused of driving under the influence to submit to random urinalysis tests as a condition of their being released before trial. Three individuals had challenged the requirement for participation in random urinalysis testing, resulting in the case being brought before the court.

In 2015, the three were detained on suspicion of driving under the influence. As a condition of pretrial release, each person was ordered to participate in random urinalysis testing. They challenged the random tests, though the Spokane Superior Court denied their requests. When the case went before the state Supreme Court, the decision was reversed. The case was then sent back to the Superior Court.